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How much does Charlotte FC need to pay for goals?

By Brian Maurer

Liel Abada (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)

Charlotte FC has failed to score in two consecutive games at home. The Crown’s offensive woes have been the biggest part of the transfer window discussion among fans as the team currently ranks T-25th in goals scored in MLS (14). The last two games have been an exclamation point to Charlotte’s inability to find the back of the net.

Goals are the most expensive part of an MLS salary budget. I calculated the sum of each MLS team’s top three goal contributors and their guaranteed compensation (salary) to see how teams are spending for their goals and where Charlotte ranks to get a gauge of how much salary spending they may need to improve their squad in the secondary window.

Charlotte FC is paying the least amount for their goal contributors

The Crown is spending the least amount of salary for their top three goal contributors ($1.69 million). Clearly from the list of teams who spend the least on their top goal contributors, money doesn’t necessarily mean more goals. Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake are spending less on top goal contributors compared to most MLS teams yet they are producing a bunch of goals.

Goal contributions and salaries for the top three goal contributors on each team

The main reason for this is likely that they have one key goal contributor who has stood out as the leader of their team, especially on the production end; Robin Lod in Minnesota (12 GCs) and Chicho Arango (17) in RSL.

While many might think spending big would garner a larger return, that has not been the case in all situations.

Goal contributions and salaries for the top three goal contributors on each team

Inter Miami and the New York Red Bulls have gotten solid returns on their investments, but other top spenders have not been getting that same return (Toronto, Austin, and Nashville). In Austin and Toronto’s case, their inefficient attacking spending has still led them to land well within the playoff range.

Charlotte is last when ranking goal contributors

Charlotte ranks last in goals scored from their top three goal contributors (9). This makes sense because they are currently also paying the least for their top three contributors. However, the other teams that are struggling to get enough goals from their main attackers aren’t due to a lack of spending. Their spending this year appears to be less efficient.

Goal contributions and salaries for the top three goal contributors on each team

The New England Revolution, Chicago Fire, and Atlanta United all have struggled to get the necessary goals from their key pieces and as a consequence find themselves well outside the Eastern Conference’s top seven spots. The Fire’s spending is even worse than the others as their highest-paid player Xherdan Shaqiri is making millions and isn’t one of their top three goal contributors.

Charlotte has been one of the more efficient teams

When comparing the ratio of salary spent to top goal contributors Charlotte ranks in the top five. Their poor goal return does seem to match up with their lack of current spending up top. Based on Charlotte’s ratio if they were to double their current top goal contributor spending they should be able to double their goal return. 

Goal contributions and salaries for the top three goal contributors on each team

If Abada can produce when he is fully integrated back into the eleven there is a chance that level of spending and production might already be on the roster. His salary alone would move Charlotte closer to the middle of the pack in terms of top goal-contributor salary spending. The issue is he would need to contribute nearly double-digit goals by himself to help match his salary to Charlotte’s current level of efficiency. A tall task with the lack of chances that Charlotte has been creating recently.


Spending big does not guarantee the necessary goals to compete at the top of MLS. It has in some cases (Miami and NYRB), but in many cases spending big has shorted teams’ rosters as a whole and reduced their ability to maintain at or near the top of their conference, even if they are producing goals.

Spending well seems to be the major factor when it comes to getting the wins needed accompanied by the goals from top contributors. Of the top four teams in each conference, six of those eight all rank in the top 15 in lowest salary spent-per-goal contribution ratio among their top three goal contributors.

Based on these findings there are a couple things that can be deduced about Charlotte’s current lack of goals, and how much spending needs to be done to improve their end product.

First, Abada could push this team forward significantly by himself if he can reach the production levels that he had at Celtic. This would help the club scale up with more goals and results while maintaining its current trajectory of having an efficiently spent roster foundation. Then make one big splash signing to help boost the attack and support Abada. If Charlotte hits on that one signing there should be a benefit for multiple players on the roster.

This is what has led to Salt Lake and Minnesota’s success. Both have veteran goal contributors who are boosting the final product of other younger prospects.

Second, Charlotte makes multiple big splashes this summer and likely sacrifices some of their efficient spending for some extra goals. They have the money and the spending they have done has been very efficient this year making this an option without any resource sacrifice. This is the model that NYRB and Toronto have used to boost their final results, as well as bring in new coaches. 

If Charlotte’s defense can maintain, Abada hits, and Charlotte brings in one more $2 million+ salary signing that makes his teammates around him better, the Crown should be able to scale up their current level of efficiency to better results, regardless of what moves other EC teams make.